Angry BEST driver drinks poison, slashes colleagues with sickle

Furious that he had not been allotted his usual driving route and conductor, 34-year-old Shankar Mane stormed out of the Mumbai Central depot; he returned two hours later and assaulted the three book starters in revenge

A heated argument over which route he would drive that day triggered an angry reaction in a BEST bus driver, causing him to allegedly consume poison and attack his three co-workers with a sickle. While the three victims are out of danger, the driver is in the ICU of Nair Hospital. A case has also been registered with the Nagpada police station.

The injured Dilip Dongre who tried to intervene and help Mane
The injured Dilip Dongre who tried to intervene and help Mane

Shankar Mane (34), who has been with the Brihanmumbai Electric and Suburban Transport (BEST) for the last five years, showed up at the Mumbai Central depot yesterday at 6.15 am for duty. He went up to the book starter Ratan Shedge (52) book starters allot the day’s duty to drivers and conductors.

Doctors at Nair Hospital said Shankar Mane had consumed pesticide and would take at least two days to recover
Doctors at Nair Hospital said Shankar Mane had consumed pesticide and would take at least two days to recover

When Shedge didn’t assign the usual route number 154 (Byculla to Nehru Planetarium) to Mane, the latter insisted on working only on that route and with his chosen conductor. When his wishes weren’t attended to, Mane stormed out of the depot around 7 am, saying he didn’t want to work.

Seeking revenge
Around 9.30 am, he allegedly reappeared in the office with a sickle behind his back and slashed Shedge and fellow book starters, Dilip Dongre (55) and Masurkar, with a sickle. Later, he collapsed onto the ground. Colleagues took all four to the nearby Nair Hospital, where Mane was admitted to the ICU and Dongre and Shedge to the trauma ward. They also informed the police.

An assistant dean from the hospital told mid-day that the driver had consumed pesticide and is unconscious. “Dongre and Shedge have cuts on their back and thighs and are out of danger. Masurkar had minor injuries on his back. Mane will take at least two days to recover,” he said.

Dongre, one of the victims, recalled, “Mane was called up for duty at 6.15 am, but bus number 154 had already gone to another driver. He was furious because of this. Since Shedge had joined recently, I tried to help out and asked him to place Mane on some other route. This angered him (Mane) and he left the depot. He came back and attacked me while I was allotting duties to other drivers and conductors.”

Senior Inspector Nandkumar Krishnarao Mehetar from Nagpada police station said, “Mane brought the pesticide from Namdeo Umaji in Byculla. He consumed it in the canteen before attacking them. We have the receipt of the purchase and also the glass in which he had the poison, along with the sickle. We are still recording the statements from Dongre and Shedge.” Mane has been booked under sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 309 (attempt to suicide) of the Indian Penal code.

‘Draconian system’
Mane stays with his wife and an infant daughter at the Chandivli BEST quarters. A close relative of his alleged that Dongre and Shedge harassed the driver. “They would call him randomly at odd times like 4 am, 5 am. He finally lost his patience and reacted to it,” he said.

However, the employees’ union blames the BEST’s new Canadian scheduling system, calling it draconian. The programme, which was designed by Canadian firm Trapeze, was introduced in March to automate the work allotment to save the BEST man-hours and money they spent on manual scheduling. It has faced stiff opposition from drivers and conductors, who say they have to work more in the new system.

Nitin Patil, president of the BEST’s employee union, contended, “We appeal to the state government to take note of the incident and initiate corrective measures to avoid such cases in future. Finally, we once again demand the scrapping of the draconian Canadian schedule forced upon honest and hard-working staffers.”

BEST speak
Sunil Dudhwadkar, chairman of the BEST committee, said, “Mane was asked to wait for the allotment of a bus, as he was not given his regular bus route. He walked out of depot at 7 am and came back at 9.30 am and attacked our staffers.

This is an unprecedented incident. I will set up an inquiry to know the exact reason behind this attack. Prima facie, it appears to be a problem in duty allotment.” “We have initiated a fact-finding committee that will look into the issue. Our first priority is for them (employees) to recover,” said Manoj Varhade, spokesperson, BEST Undertaking.

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